That is what it feels like our businesses are in right now. That the switch has been flipped to Maintenance Mode. All weddings are postponed, so all wedding photographers are suddenly finding themselves out on a limb. It’s certainly the strangest time to be in business that I’ve ever known. Working in weddings means that you plan months and years ahead. You know when you will be working, well not in these times!
What Do We Do Now?
We’ve never had a year where we can’t go out and shoot, this situation is scary and it’s hard to know what to do in the interim and what to plan for the future. Well, what do fishermen do when they can’t go out to sea? They mend their nets. This is what I think we should be doing for now. Looking at the parts of our businesses that need to be worked on. We suddenly all have the time to get to the bottom of our to-do lists, to get to those jobs that have long been left and to tidy up the parts of our businesses that have become a little messy.
Maybe your portfolio needs updating or your brochure could do with a refresh. Maybe it’s your website that needs a makeover or your workflow could be improved. Tempting as it might be to treat the enforced time off as some kind of unexpected holiday, I think we’d be better off using some of it as bonus time to improve our businesses and our customer service. There is always room for improvement.
What Else Can We Do To Maintain?
Still post on our social channels. People are bored, they are looking on social media and they want escapism. We can offer that. Couples are still planning weddings, they are busy making Pinterest Boards and Instagram Collections. OK, it might be very challenging to create fresh content right now but all you need to take images is a camera and some light. So maybe for now, you are creating and posting personal content. This helps clients to get more of a sense on who you are and what you do away from work. Or maybe you create a new project that you can achieve within current restrictions. I’ve seen some incredible ones like Tim Dunk’s FaceTime Portrait Series and Nadia Meli’s Connected Images all shot online.
Repurpose Existing Content
As photographers we have back catalogues of images sitting on our hard drives. Weirdly I’ve been enjoying looking back and finding interesting ways to post my past work. It doesn’t take much time to pull out a series of shots and highlight them. For instance, I’m not particularly known for my wedding dance floor photos and yet I do enjoy shooting them and they are my favourite part of the day to edit – you never know exactly what you are going to get and it’s fun seeing people when they really let their hair down. So I pulled out just six of those shots and posted them individually on my Instagram. Then I put them into an Insta Story and spoke about why I like shooting them. After that I added all six as a Facebook post and then I created a blog post on my website using them. The point is that it’s not very hard to do and while we might think that placing similar content in different places is repetitious, that is assuming that one individual is following us in all those places and catching all of our posts. In reality, people don’t and even if they did, it all just builds brand awareness.
Taking Care Of Existing Clients
Just as you might be feeling stressed and anxious right now, so are many of your clients. So now is the time to step up the customer service. Be helpful, sympathetic and as much as possible be in their corner. You will eventually shoot their wedding so do what you need to to ensure that you are a welcome presence on the wedding day. Check in on them, keep up to date with their plans and try to meet their needs if you can.
Income You Can Make Now
There is nothing like having the rug completely pulled away from under you to kick you into getting creative with your business. When I was forced to postpone the next Photography Farm conference, I decided that in the interim I would offer online conferences. And they’ve been a big success. In my photography, one of the first things that I did was assess where I could bring in some emergency income. I thought of asking clients who still have their weddings in my online galleries after a year, if they would like to continue having them up for a small annual fee. This covered my grocery bill for the first month of lockdown. Maybe you could set up a print sale across your galleries, or go back to clients that haven’t ordered albums yet to see if they’d like to plan those now. Many of the album makers are offering deals to help us all through these times. Or how about selling vouchers for shoots that you will undertake once able? You could create a page for them on your website and promote them now.
The Exit Plan
OK, so it is tricky to plan anything right now but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get ready for when we do return to working. Have you put any thought into what you will do to boost your business back up then? While we have the time, I would recommend making a specific action plan to re-establish your place in the market as we start to get back to ‘normal’. Maybe write some blog posts now but don’t publish them until they’d be relevant or set up some social media ads that you can release at the appropriate time. Think about promotions or offers that you could run for the next 12 months. You know some key dates that you could work around like Valentine’s Day, Black Friday etc.
Maintenance Mode doesn’t mean closing down, it means doing work behind the scenes. If you can see this as a time to diversify your income streams, to be as creative in your business as you are in your shooting, then trust me, it is possible to not just survive but to thrive.